An Evening of Milestones When 30th Annual REFA Gala Honors Manfredi and LowreyOctober 10, 2018 - By Michael Walsh
BOSTON–Milestones are typically celebrated in round numbers and are often used as a reflection or demarcation of past and present; as Aristotle said, “not only do we measure change by time, but time by change, because they are defined by one another.”
On Thursday, October 11, 2018, the Real Estate Finance Association and its members will celebrate two landmarks when they honor the 30th Robert S. Swain Jr. Distinguished Service Award to David Manfredi and Elizabeth Lowrey of Elkus Manfredi Architects.
Along with proclaiming its third decade, the Swain Award will achieve a second milestone, as its ceremonial Boston Harbor Bowl will be etched to an architectural firm for the first time. It is a notable transition that the two recipients embrace. “I was surprised, honored, and excited,” said the design principal, Elizabeth Lowrey.” “I never considered that REFA would recognize an architectural firm – we could not be more honored alongside the remarkable group of past honorees … it’s truly amazing.”
The award is an annual recognition of an outstanding contribution made to the real estate industry, either by lifetime example or a specific achievement. A prestigious benchmark that CEO and founding principal, David Manfredi modestly welcomed. “I received a call from Paul Ayoub [current President of REFA] who thoughtfully asked if Elizabeth and I would accept the honor from REFA. I was humbled by the offer because of the list of past honorees who have made such extraordinary contributions to the real estate industry and to our community. And, I was honored because of the prestige of the organization, REFA, which represents collegiality, integrity and commitment to community,” he revered.
As for being awarded the first firm in its profession, Lowrey appreciates the deviation. “I am impressed and delighted that REFA is broadening its reach to recognize the impact that design has on a development … we have always striven to offer our clients and partners not only great planning and design but a deep understanding of the business goals. To be recognized by such an esteemed group that focuses on the business and financial sides of real estate in the region certainly elevates Elkus Manfredi,” she adds.
Ironically the agency and the duo’s partnership embraces its own thirty-year milestones. “When Howard Elkus and David Manfredi opened the firm in 1988, I was the first hire,” Lowery expressed.
Her illustrious career began soon after she moved to Boston - just six weeks after graduating from Auburn University. After a couple of years with Vesti Design, she found the perfect fit at the renowned firm; It is a partnership that she fondly chronicles. “Mutual respect is a big part of why we work so well together. I was always a great admirer of both Howard and David as pioneers in place-making planning and design that creates community at every level. And from the start, they both respected the essential role that interior architecture plays in the success of a project. At the time of the firm’s founding, that was unusual. Interiors were still considered an afterthought instead of a central component of a project. But Howard and David knew that the outside and inside of every project must work hand-in-hand, which meant that I had a seat at the table from the very beginning.”
Manfredi attributes his humble beginning, his father’s craftsmanship, and his long-time past business partner, Howard Elkus to the firms successful run. “I grew up in South Glastonbury, Connecticut. My father was a carpenter and home builder; I grew up in a house that he built, and I worked with him many summers building homes. I learned a great respect for craft and the talent of craftsmen. I also grew up adjacent to my grandfather’s farm, and I played in the fields and orchards of the Connecticut River Valley. That early relationship to the land has also influenced my design career … I am ever grateful to my parents for their commitment to education and curiosity, to hard work and perseverance - and to my longtime business partner, Howard Elkus, who was a great friend, partner and collaborator for thirty years.”
Much has transformed the architecture and design industry over the time span, and technology has led the charge for faster, leaner and a more efficient design/build processes, yet it is the firm’s common ethos of collaborative partnerships and sustainability that continues to motivate the duo. “I am driven to make better communities that bring people together, to design buildings that support innovation and creativity … Jim Davis and NB Development Group are a great example. Jim had the vision to develop a new, mixed-use neighborhood in Brighton. We designed a new headquarters for New Balance, new practice facilities for the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, innovation space for companies like Bose, Roche and Mass Innovation Labs … all of this has been a catalyst for surrounding development and other public realm improvements. Jim’s vision and our collaboration initiated a ripple that has had an impact on the diversity and quality of life for an entire neighborhood,” affirmed Manfredi.
“Today, it’s all about the environment. As designers, planners, financiers, builders, we have a responsibility to do the right thing. The whole development and building community understand that now more than they ever have. Ten years ago, the movement had begun, but people didn’t really take it seriously – sustainable design was a luxury. Now it is essential,” Lowrey, adds.
It is their dedication to connecting neighborhoods and the vision beyond the built environment that is recognized by colleagues and clients. John Fish, Chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction proudly avows the pair’s commitment. “Elkus Manfredi has literally transformed our city skyline through innovative, creative and visionary building designs that have inspired and moved us … David and Elizabeth are believers that truly great architecture is about more than just designing buildings—it’s about knitting together entire communities and bringing people together.”
The two will continue connecting groups when they accept the 30th Robert S. Swain Jr. Distinguished Service Award at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. An evening of milestones that will award a first of its kind and commemorate a passage of time.Elizabeth Lowrey David Manfredi The Broad Institute, Cambridge MA New Balance and Boston Bruins/Warrior Ice Arena